Thursday, November 26, 2009

Not So Fast

I've long thought that even though we are at war, domestic policy is our president's priority. Given the financial crisis and recession, to some extent this is understandable. But I've feared that our president will win or lose our wars overseas depending on his judgment about whether losing or winning will distract him more from achieving domestic goals.

Related to his is my view that the president's outreach to our enemies isn't just a naive faith in his powers of persuasion but a deliberate retreat to provide breathing space to focus on domestic issues:

Saying that foreign policy is a distant second in priorities for this administration might seem an odd thing to say for a president who has travelled abroad so much already.

But it makes sense if you think of the trips abroad as efforts to disengage from foes and retreat a bit by giving our foes what they want in order to buy time to pass domestic legislation.

Understand that when you retreat, it takes a while for an enemy to pursue you and fill the vacuum. And that time it takes for the enemy to re-engage will surely be much quieter.

And if you want to, you can argue that the period of quiet while the enemy approaches is actually "peace." It isn't peace, but you can pretend for a while that it is so you can focus on domestic issues.

Here we have a writer mistaking the peace of retreat for good luck:

On foreign policy, the goal has been to prevent chronic problems from becoming attention-absorbing crises. To ensure that low-level trade conflicts with China don't poison the broader bilateral relationship, the administration has picked its fights carefully. To avoid pointless confrontation with Moscow, the White House pledged to "reset" U.S.-Russian relations. Obama signaled a willingness to talk directly with Iran about its nuclear program. It limited administration criticism of the country's disputed presidential election last summer and the government crackdown that followed.

With considerable luck, the strategy has so far proven a success.

A "success." Indeed, the president has prevented chronic problems from becoming attention-grabbing crises. But why should our enemies provoke a crisis? They're advancing as we retreat.

The author has mistaken the quiet of retreat for good luck. What he forgets is that eventually a retreat must halt unless it is followed by surrender. We will face attention grabbing crises.

And the crises are building up all around. Nobel Peace Prize, indeed.